Playing, imagination and the great outdoors

I have noticed that in the park outside our daycare, our 5 year-old likes to spend at least as much time in the long narrow garden on the side, with a large tree, flower beds, grass and other fun things, and not just in the more “ordered” gym area surrounded by wood chips. It seems to make intuitive sense that this would be so, and indeed Llewellyn Wishart’s published research found that young kids gain a lot more from environments with higher levels of biodiversity. Much of the built environment and workplaces are sterile enough, so it’s really important to have spaces where kids can be free to play with more interesting natural elements than bolted-down gym. The Finnish seem to understand this more than the United States.

Llewellyn Wishart

Biodiversity in early childhood spaces The biodiversity principle in practice in an early childhood space in rural Australia

Our recently published research sheds light on what young children might need more of in their outdoor learning environments.

How do we stimulate well rounded play, physical activity, motor development and simply the joy of being outdoors? In a word think “diversity”. Built and natural design elements with variable surfaces, inclines, levels and terrain make for varied and heightened physical activity and movement experiences. These diverse elements in turn bring challenge and delight.

Parents, early childhood administrators, educators, designers and builders of children’s outdoor spaces should be encouraged to embrace the biophilic design principle of “Biodiversity”. All too often monocultures prevail and children are left with safe, sanitized and flattened outdoor environments lacking in vegetation, imagination and challenge. Biodiversity in plant life, natural elements and materials offers the potential for enriched multi-sensory learning and spaces children and…

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